Stephen Hofmeyr QC is a leading commercial barrister with a wide-ranging international commercial law practice.
He is described in the leading legal directories as “one of the commercial Bar’s best all round counsel” with a “keen eye for detail”, “a heavyweight in this field” widely regarded as “one of the nicest insurance silks at the Bar” and one who “fights his corner very hard”.
His relatively unique combination of legal and accounting qualifications has equipped him to specialise in all aspects of commercial law and make him particularly suited to complex disputes. The areas of commercial law to which Stephen has been most exposed and with which he has had most experience range from the general contractual to the more specialized, such as insurance and reinsurance, financial services and banking, professional negligence, aviation, rail, shipping and company law (in particular, shareholder disputes and claims against directors).
The primary focus of Stephen’s practice is advocacy, but also involves a significant amount of related advisory work. He is equally adept in long commercial trials and international arbitrations (which typically demand an ability to assimilate and distil complex facts, a mastery of difficult technical issues, lengthy examination of witnesses, tactical skill, and detailed and meticulous planning and preparation), and interlocutory hearings and short appearances before first instance or appellate courts (which generally demand careful legal analysis, tactical appreciation and commonsense). He appears most frequently in the Commercial Court in London, in international arbitrations (SCMA, ICC, ICSID, LMAA, LCIA and other arbitration courts) and on appeal from these tribunals to the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Privy Council. He has also appeared in the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, in the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and in the Privy Council sitting in the Bahamas. He is very much a “team player”, operates an informal “hands-on” approach and is very accessible.
For the last 4-5 years Stephen has been involved as an advocate predominantly in complex, long-running, substantial and technical On-shore and Off-shore Energy, Rig, FPSO and Shipbuilding litigation and arbitration. His work has covered power stations, pipelines, ships, rigs, FPSOs, facilities and equipment, through all stages from construction to decommissioning. Recent high-profile cases include:
- Stephen led a large team in a gas pipeline ICC arbitration relating to the now abandoned South Stream pipeline which it was proposed should run from Russia, through the Black Sea to Bulgaria. This was a highly time-consuming and technical case involving issues of continuous casting, metallurgy, pipe manufacture, fracture mechanics, submarine pipeline systems, pipe laying, systems testing and quality control. The project was cancelled by Russia in December 2014 following obstacles from Bulgaria and the EU, the 2014 Crimean crisis, and the imposition of European sanctions on Russia.
- He represented STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. in the Commercial Court in a US$120 million dispute with Teekay Tankers Limited in connection with an option agreement for the construction and delivery of, in Teekay’s option, twelve 113,000 DWT crude/product ready oil tankers. The main issues for decision included whether the option agreement was void for uncertainty, as being or containing an “agreement to agree”, and whether the option agreement was repudiated or renounced. Issues of confidentiality in relation to, and issue estoppel arising out of, an arbitration Award also arose.
- He represented a shipyard in four related arbitrations regarding the legal effect of the non-provision of refund guarantees under four shipbuilding contracts. The shipbuilding contracts specified the provision of refund guarantees by one of three South Korean banks. In the context of the financial difficulties experienced by South Korean shipyards following the global financial crisis, the banks were unwilling to provide refund guarantees.
- He was the lead Counsel for Medway Power Limited in a gas supply dispute with Centrica Plc in relation to the Medway Power Station. The case, which involved highly technical issues regarding failures in two gas and one steam turbine and their consequences, settled shortly before the start of a two-month Commercial Court trial.
- Stephen represented underwriters in a high value patent infringement insurance arbitration in which the manufacturer of generic drugs claimed an indemnity in respect of generic patent infringement liability.
- He represents a large construction company in a number of related disputes with insurers arising out of the construction and development of waste management facilities and the provision of waste-to-energy management services across northern England.
- He will shortly appear in the Privy Council representing directors in a shareholder dispute.
Stephen has also continued to provide advisory work across all his specialisms.
Increasingly, Stephen sits as an arbitrator, having received over 200 appointments in recent years.
He has also acted as an expert on English law in proceedings in various States of the USA and in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Singapore; and in international arbitrations.